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Stars/Worlds Without Number (General Thread)

Yora

Hero
Really?! I wouldn't say that it's all the system is about or all it brings to the table. There's a lot more than that.

Of course I could just do what the rules say and shrug it off. But I still really wonder what purpose it is supposed to fulfill.
 

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Fanaelialae

Legend
Really?! I wouldn't say that it's all the system is about or all it brings to the table. There's a lot more than that.

Of course I could just do what the rules say and shrug it off. But I still really wonder what purpose it is supposed to fulfill.
It's not all the system is about, but it is a significant part of what makes the warrior class good. The system is designed so that an experienced warrior with the right foci can kill weaker opponents even on a miss. Take that away, and you're taking away a major part of what makes the warrior good.
 


Fanaelialae

Legend
So it might be in the game to boost the warrior class?
It's not just the warrior. I believe that the monk-equivalent mage partial class (I'm away from my book ATM and can't recall the name) also leverages the shock mechanic, as might others.

It's an important part of the combat system. It is threaded through classes, foci, weapons, etc.

It's there to represent that trained combatants are dangerous in melee. In a gun fight the wall you're hiding behind might take the brunt of the damage. In melee combat, even if you're blocking all attacks, YOU are taking the brunt.
 

Yora

Hero
On a different topic, anyone had had experience with system strain? Now that's a mechanic that I really like from the look of it.

With healing between fights being so easily accessible that it's basically unlimited, a well rested party heading out for their new adventure after a longer break can easily heal up everyone to full hit points after every fight for maybe a day or two. But once the system strain reaches its limit, you'll be down to one or two healings a day, regardless of how much healing resources you have.

I suspect that this makes one day adventures followed by a week or two of rest pretty easy as hit points are concerned, as you can heal back to full after every encounter. But having to deal with even minor injuries over many consecutive days could lead to quite interesting dynamics that I don't even want to speculate about without seeing it in action. And now that I think of it, this is where shock damage also might come into play. At least for characters who don't have heavier armor.

I also really like system strain as a mechanic for deprivation and exposure. It won't actively hurt you, but it still makes you more vulnerable in the long term. Having some small critters with minor poison attacks that don't cause damage but cause a point of system strain also seems like a fun option.
 

kenada

Legend
Supporter
Shock damage comes from Stars Without Number, which describes it as the danger melee weapons pose to ill-armored opponents. From what I’ve read, Kevin Crawford feels the common approach (of missing frequently) isn’t representative of melee fights. Shock damage is meant to represent the harm you receive in melee even if you don’t take a direct blow. For example, getting swarmed is nasty because the crowd will deal its shock damage regardless of the target’s AC.

Another thing to keep in mind is that shock is your minimum damage. You deal it on a hit or a miss provided the target’s defenses are below the threshold (or you are making a swarm attack). If you are wielding a long sword (2/AC 13 shock damage) and roll a 1 on 1d8+1, then you deal 3 damage to any target with AC 13 or less. If you get into melee with something, it’s going to mess you up. That’s the advantage of ranged weapons. They help prevent you from taking damage unnecessarily.

Regarding system strain, I agree in concept, but we haven’t had it come up yet (because our second session is this Saturday, and our first was abbreviated and very hard on the ghouls involved). Once we’ve gotten some experience with it, I’ll report back. I should also note that system strain serves as a check while exploring. If you push yourself too hard and take system strain from a negative effect (like trying to sleep outside without adequate heating or enough food), then it’s potentially lethal. If the party pushes too hard, they could end up vulnerable to the elements if they are not careful with their supplies.
 

kenada

Legend
Supporter
We had our third session session zero today. I set down a copy of the part of the map I developed while working through setting creation, and everything changed.

adal-sinths.jpeg

I had assumed I would go over the setting some, then we would start play. We did, but it ended up being much more in depth than I expected. We ended up spending a couple of hours on it. By the end, we’d charted a completely different course. I had already dropped some of the conceits from the previous iteration, but I tried to keep the idea of the PCs as explorers. It was meant to be a sandbox game, and they’d decide what to do next. Well, they did.

The basic premise of the region is that it’s a frontier. The kingdom that existed there was destroyed in an accident. A neighboring nation eventually came to push back the Outsiders who had come forth again (through a portal accidentally opened in the Donarhus, the megastructure serving as the capital located in 0509 on the map). I’m not sure why, but my players took a big interested in that. They want to get inside and loot it.

After working on setting prep, I struggled a bit with what to prep for my hex map’s key. The region map I generated ended up much larger than my previous one (~56k vs. ~17k square miles). My previous approach was to prep every hex. I thought I could use tags to make that easier to do here. I’d use the generators to create content the PCs could discover. The thing that changed was me. I finally understood how WWN goes about creating its sandbox.

The sandbox is not about having everything prepped for everywhere. It’s working at a higher level than that. That’s why points of interest are comparatively sparse. You’re not supposed to pixel-bitch your way across the landscape. The game is presenting you with a setting made out of adventure hooks, and you’re supposed to go see which ones are interesting.

Our next session is in about a month. Setting generation produced a ton of notes (about 12k words) that I want to organize into something both for myself and my players. I also want to finish up my hex map (I have the terrain done, but I need to finish up the settlements and ruins in a few other parts of the map) and create an in-setting variant for my players to reference.

Once I’m done with my prep, the game should be very easy to run going forward. It’s been a long time since I’ve run something without having to do a ton of work between sessions, and I’m really looking forward to it.
 

Raduin711

Adventurer
That map looks great!

I recently bought SWN so I appreciate people's experience with this kind of system.

The two things I am wanting to change are the stat bonuses (to bring them more in line with D&D) and roll d20's for skill checks. Seems like it should be doable...
 

Yora

Hero
Those are the original D&D modifiers from 1974, which were designed for rolling 3d6 in order for attributes. I recently saw someone write a post why such low modifiers are actually a good system. Maybe I can find it again.
 

kenada

Legend
Supporter
Those are the original D&D modifiers from 1974, which were designed for rolling 3d6 in order for attributes. I recently saw someone write a post why such low modifiers are actually a good system. Maybe I can find it again.
They’re similar but flatter (assuming basic rather than OD&D, since the latter didn’t really have consistent modifiers). I believe the argument for smaller modifiers usually goes that it reduces the importance of having the best ability scores. It also simplifies the monster math. Compare monster stat blocks from pre-3e to post-3e. The former are much simpler. WWN adds instinct to the mix, but it’s still pretty simple.

That map looks great!
Thanks! I made it in Campaign Cartographer 3+ and was really pleased with how nicely it came out. Some of the other maps I’ve done in that program not been so nice. 😅

The two things I am wanting to change are the stat bonuses (to bring them more in line with D&D) and roll d20's for skill checks. Seems like it should be doable...
Do you mean D&D (i.e., 3e–5e) or D&D (i.e., B/X, BECMI, etc)? Using the B/X modifiers might be okay, but modern ones are too big. Changing the modifiers that much would have knock-on effects across the system. The same goes for skills. It doesn’t seem worth the work. You’d be better off using the system-neutral parts with whatever system you’d rather use.
 
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Yora

Hero
Characters can use skill points to get up to five attribute improvements during the 10 levels of the game. Which is quite a lot.

The Develop Attribute focus also lets you treat the modifier for any attribute as +1 higher without changing the attribute score, and you can it multiple times for different attributes.

The Evasion, Physical, and Metal saving throws let you pick the modifier from one of two attributes, whichever is better.

The Punch, Shoot, and Stab skills add their skill ranks to attack rolls.

The rules very much take into account that attribute modifiers are quite low and works with that.
 

kenada

Legend
Supporter
There’s also the default assumption that skills should be reliable while fighting is less so due to the chaos of combat. That’s why skills and attacking/saving use different distributions. Using a d20 would make skills less reliable. You can work around that by letting characters take 10 or by giving them passive skill scores. However, another core assumption is that you only roll in exceptional circumstances.

From an OSR perspective, one of the criticisms of skill systems in D&D is that they’re too prescriptive. If the thief has a skill that lets them hide in shadows, then only the thief can do it. If you don’t put ranks in a skill, you’re either completely incompetent at it or incapable of even trying. 3e really went down the path of using the skill system as a simulation engine. It had lots of trivial DCs that could occasionally fail. I once had a character fail a DC 0 check to climb down a ladder during combat. The effect was they just needed to take their time, but it came across as very silly in the moment. In SWN/WWN, you’re never supposed to roll when the difficulty would be less than 6 (standard is 8).

Stars Without Number and Worlds Without Number assume PCs are competent at their roles in life. If you’re a sailor or a pilot, you’re going to be good at sailor or pilot things and just succeed usually at doing them. The only time you should be making a check is when the circumstances are exceptional (such as attempting to sail a ship in a storm). The mechanisms for making skills reliable in D&D aren’t really equivalent, and ignoring the check based on background is not normative as far as I’m aware. You should typically want to roll in those systems because it’s a means of demonstrating your investment in that skill.

Beyond that skill stuff and what @Yora said, you’d have to change the monster math. They’d need boosts to their AC and attack rolls as well as hit points. You’d also need to increase the damage monsters dealt, and you’d need to change their saving throws and skills. SWN and WWN are designed to be compatible with other “classic” games, so you’d lose that compatibility. Anything wanted to use (such as monsters, since the bestiaries in those games are a bit small) would require additional conversion work. I expect it’s possible to systematize the conversion, but it seems like a lot of work just for bigger numbers. It just doesn’t seem worth it.

The Develop Attribute focus also lets you treat the modifier for any attribute as +1 higher without changing the attribute score, and you can it multiple times for different attributes.
I’m pretty sure that’s specific to Worlds Without Number. However, both WWN and SWN have foci for non-human species, which can include bonuses to your attribute modifiers.
 



This is simply meant to be a general discussion thread for Kevin Crawford's Worlds Without Number.

A few people have been talking about it here and there in the forum, but I am curious who has looked through it yet? What do you think of the rules, GM advice, or sandboxing toolkit? Who has run a game with it? What were your experiences? Or what do you plan to run with it? Has anyone homebrewed anything with it?

Let's talk Worlds Without Number.
I haven't run it yet, but system-wise it addresses a huge number of my concerns with D&D-style games in general, mechanically, specifically:

1) Eliminates d20-based skill checks in favour of narrower-range, more predictable rolling. Better skill system generally.

2) Possible to KO or insta-kill enemies within the rules, with a well-designed mechanism.

3) Makes warrior and spellcaster classes both significantly dangerous and threatening.

4) System stress provides a limit to magical and non-magical healing, but a sufficiently high one to not be crippling nor so high it's irrelevant (looking at you 4E!).

5) Instinct and Morale rules strongly encourage better "combat roleplaying" of enemies in a great way.

6) Half-class system is a lot better than multiclass systems of 3E/5E and offers great options.

Setting-wise I was slightly disappointed with the default setting. It has huge promise but never quite lives up to it. I get that we're supposed to randomly-generate the specifics but there's just a bit more needed to make a lot of the nations really comprehensible. Also the sea being basically off-limits was a bit meh (same with space, I get that helps to upset the aliens and feels a bit Prince of Nothing but and obviously I can ignore it, but I was surprised it was the default). Truly great take on elves/dwarves though, and indeed all the non-human races are pretty interesting and exactly in-tune with the presented broad setting concept.

About the only outright bad thing for my money is the Frail debuff you get if reduced to 0 HP, but don't get if magically healed, which means that you basically have a 5E-style whack-a-mole if you have a magical healer (which is a half-class). It also means if you only have non-magic healers, whilst the out-of-combat healing they can do is solid, if anyone hits 0 ever, no matter how briefly, they're basically out of action for a week, which seems like too big a discontinuity from the "whack-a-mole" of magical healing (to me).

I was also surprised that the "Heroic" options were treated as a block, like apply all this or don't, where in fact I think it would make sense to see the Heroic options as a toolkit, like you could have the extra HP, but not the extra half-class/Heroic class.
 
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kenada

Legend
Supporter
Setting-wise I was slightly disappointed with the default setting. It has huge promise but never quite lives up to it. I get that we're supposed to randomly-generate the specifics but there's just a bit more needed to make a lot of the nations really comprehensible.
I’m curious to know whether the Gyre was generated using the tools in the “Creating Your Campaign” chapter. Most of it reads like it could have been — except for the religions, which I found disappointing.
 

kenada

Legend
Supporter
Sorry to go off topic, I figured the rules were probably similar and could probably be equally applied to WWN.
I thought it was a fair question. I was just noting the context. While WWN was designed to be compatible with SWN, there are some differences in class design and available foci. I doubt using Develop Attribute will cause problems in SWN, but it’s something you’d have to bring in from WWN.
 

Yora

Hero
I am trying to understand the system for Renown and major projects, which turns out to be quite difficult because the actual rules are hidden within walls and walls of examples. What's the difference between the difficulty and the renown cost for a project? In some paragraphs they seem to be the same thing, but in other places they are mentioned as two separate things the PCs have to deal with.
 


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